Living the Dash

This week’s eNewsletter feature story
is written by Julie Ruchniewicz,
FPCE Parish Nurse.

Dear friends,

This time of year, I always feel conflicted. The holidays and the previous year are over, the new year is well underway. There always seems to be pressure to commit to some resolutions (though I strongly dislike that word) that you may or may not keep. Just as we’ve passed a new beginning, I am acutely aware that this year, too, will end. How will I fill the days in between?

It makes me think of a poem that I love.

The Dash

By Linda Ellis

I read of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on the tombstone from the beginning to the end.

He noted that first came the date of birth and spoke of the following date with tears,
but he said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time they spent alive on earth
and now only those who loved them know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own, the cars, the house the cash.
What matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash.

So, think about this long and hard; are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left that still can be rearranged.

To be less quick to anger and show appreciation more
and love the people in our lives like we’ve never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect and more often wear a smile,
remembering that this special dash might only last a little while.

So, when your eulogy is being read, with your life’s actions to rehash,
would you be proud of the things they say about how you lived your dash?

I like this so much because it gives me pause to think: Every thought, every word, every feeling, every deed, every pain, every joy, all take place while living in the dash.

We are not necessarily defined by our birth date; it only declares how old we are. We are not defined by our date of death, it–along side our birth date–just declares how long we lived. However, that seemingly obscure dash in the middle is something to consider. How that dash is lived and fulfilled is really who we are. 

Personally, some of my promises to myself are going to help me live my dash.

  • Have less regrets. I cannot go back and fix mistakes that I have made, but I can learn and grow from them, hoping to avoid the same oversight in the future. I am going to intentionally give myself grace and let go of those regrets.
  • Do more of what I love. I am going to inventory what brings me joy; time with my family, traveling and hobbies. I will stop letting other obligations take priority and not wait for tomorrow. 
  • Live selflessly. While I am chasing my dreams and doing what I love, I will not forget about people along the way. I know that serving does increase my happiness and would help others in their dash. It may not be some grand gesture. Just doing small acts of kindness, volunteering regularly, donating, truly listening without judgement and being a good friend and family member.
  • Pursue my dream life. First, I will identify and name my dream. How can I live it, if I am not even sure what it is? Then I will take realistic steps to make my dream a reality, remembering this takes time and patience.
  • Stop letting fear control me. I am going to believe in myself, put no limitations on what I can achieve, and have faith that it will happen. I am unique and can offer the world something no one else can.

These goals are not meant to be universal; yours would be unique to you. Neither are they resolutions. Rather, they are just tools to help me answer some tough questions: When I have departed this earth or even just reflect each year beginning to year end, what does my dash say about me? How do I want to remember myself or be remembered? I realize how quickly a year goes by and how I don’t want to squander it. I suppose I just want my dash to be an example of how life can be lived abundantly. How do you want to live your dash?

If it’s not too late to wish it, Happy New Year to you and your families!

In Christ,

Julie Ruchniewicz,

FPCE Parish Nurse


“The Dash” By Linda Ellis, Copyright © Inspire Kindness, 1996,